For Ed Warren, few things are more satisfying than "a cutting remark about a conniving defendant"
Ed Warren has seen a lot of things over several years in commercial litigation. He has dealt with everything from scorned ex-lovers to twin sisters embroiled in a fraud suit, and loves exercising the power of words in his practice, whether it’s appreciating a well-drafted clause or savouring a cutting remark in a High Court ruling.
Warren made the shift to commercial property eventually, and he has been able to see the fruits of his labour in this field in the form of a promotion to senior associate at Simpson Grierson. While he appreciates the wisdom of his seniors, he believes that mid-level lawyers can also learn a lot from juniors – such as taking the time to enjoy a surf.
In this interview, Warren talks The Airline Case, becoming a father for the first time and enjoying law more than the arts.
What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of the job?
When I was in high school, I signed up for a BA/LLB at Victoria. I had a theory that law would provide post-uni job prospects, but arts (international relations, art history) would keep me interested while I slogged through law. As it happened, the arts degree started playing second fiddle pretty early on and I found myself fascinated by the law papers.
My favourite part of the job is the words – it’s incredible what you can do with words. A succinctly drafted clause in an agreement? Bliss. A cutting remark about a conniving defendant in a High Court Judgment? Even better.
What is the most memorable case you've taken on/been involved in?
I started my career in commercial litigation in a mid-sized firm in Sydney, where we did an incredibly broad range of work: payment claims for construction companies; suing shonky administrators on behalf of disgruntled shareholders; defending a claim by a scorned ex-lover suing our client for possession of a house, car and engagement ring; negotiating a settlement between twin sisters who both claimed to have been defrauded by the other.
But my most fondly remembered case (and the one that helped me meet my budget several years in a row) would have been The Airline Case. Our client was the vendor of a small airline (a mum and dad operation). They sold their business to a man who was both a tax fraud and very rude when you had to serve documents on him. Under the sale, the purchaser paid in instalments, but could take over the business before paying the full amount (NB we had no part in preparing that risky little arrangement). The purchaser drained funds from business accounts, absconded with the planes, and ran up significant debt. He then claimed the business was a dud and tried to sue our client to recover the few instalments he had paid. The purchaser was also being prosecuted by the Australian Federal Police for tax fraud; he was involved in a whisky business which turned out to be a Ponzi scheme; there were private investigators, threats of violence, and weeks of hearings where I worked alongside some of the most impressive barristers Sydney had to offer.
What is going on at the firm? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?
There seems to have been a big emphasis on mental wellbeing over the last few years. There have been quite a few illuminating presentations and workshops provided by the firm. There have also been more practical improvements, like addressing the stress of junior lawyers having to meet billable budgets and formalising flexible working policies post-Covid.
It’s something that is probably long overdue in most professions, and is really refreshing to see a workplace make a genuine commitment to supporting wellness and work/life balance.
What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so?
Being promoted to senior associate. I transitioned to commercial property from litigation at the 5/6 year PQE mark, and I expected that would hold me back a fair bit in terms of progression. But I’ve worked really hard to get up to speed with this area of law, and it has been extremely satisfying to see that pay off.
I’m really grateful to the partners at SG for giving me the opportunity to change teams, and all my team members, past and present, who have helped me learn.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give fellow lawyers about it?
You can learn just as much from the juniors in your team as you can from the seniors. The commercial property team at Simpson Grierson is a large one (35~ employees and partners) and in this past year, I’ve realised that I’m learning a huge amount from the junior lawyers and legal executives about niche areas of the law, drafting agreements, operating systems, etc. I would recommend that as lawyers get to the mid-level of senior solicitor/senior associate, they remember not to focus exclusively on the words and wisdom of their seniors.
Plus, it’s more likely to be the juniors who encourage you to log off early to go for a surf if you’re not too busy!
What should the profession and law firms focus more on?
Plain English. What a revelation! Most law firms in New Zealand are already pretty good at using plain English in their communications, documents and advice, but there are still a few out there who could take a few tips on sentence length, cutting out legalese and not smothering your verbs.
What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?
Getting to know my daughter, our first child, who was born in June this year.